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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Disobedient Adopted Children?

Is your adopted child displaying disobedient tendencies?

Probably.  And your question would be?

Parents are all over the spectrum regarding what they consider disobedience, particularly when it comes to adopted kids.  A lot of what we interpret to be disobedience (and believe me, BTDT) could often be disorientation.  For all of their little life, whether it’s been three years or thirteen years, they’ve been playing by a different set of rules.  Then you come along, and try to change it all-?!  What’s that about?  Recognize that changing gears is not easy for adults, and how much more difficult for kids who cannot always verbalize or even pinpoint what they’re feeling?

First of all, if the toddler or child is speaking another language, don’t expect them to be fluent in your language overnight.  If it were just that simple, why have you, as a big person, not learned more of their native language?  Which brings us to:

1.  Maybe they don’t understand you.  If you say, “Listen to me!” and they don’t do as you say, they’re confused… and you’re irritated.  But they were listening!  They didn’t comprehend that this meant to listen and OBEY.  It’s like any adult in a Charlie Brown movie:  “Wa-wa-wa-wa…” they’ve learned to tune out adults.  It will take time to make the paradigm shift.

2.  Maybe they don’t trust you.  You’ve been home two months, twelve months, eighteen months, and they still don’t “hop to it”?  It could be that everything that has been told them in the past was not reliable or safe.  It takes a while to understand that obeying you is in their best interests, and will not be harmful to them.  Talk it over.  Explain your reasoning occasionally if the child is older.  “If you don’t clean your bedroom, or hang up your clothes, there won’t be time to go to that fun activity.  I’m sorry, I thought you really wanted to do that….”

3.  Maybe they’re too young to understand.  I have honestly heard of parents who want to “discipline” their baby for squirming on the changing table.  So the parent slaps them!  Ridiculous.  Why not take those little squirming legs and make bicycle movements?  Have some fun.  An extra 30 seconds will not ruin your schedule.  The newly-adopted child is looking for love and attention (same as any child, but amplified).

Similar to the toddler who will push their food off of the highchair tray.  For them, it’s a science experiment, learning cause and effect, along with the gravitational pull of the earth-!  For you, it’s a pain in the neck.  Try to engage in and focus on the play aspect, rather than the notion that this is some devil-child out to curse your household.

4.  Maybe they don’t understand the concept of freedom.  They’re used to a strict schedule in the orphanage and now you give them too much leeway.  Stick to a routine, so they know what to expect.  Repeat, repeat, repeat.  Charts and lists for them to see and refer to, whether in words or pictures, can help them remember what to do, and in what order.

With an older child, discuss everything:  “It takes 5 minutes to take a shower.  I will set this timer so that you know when you should be done.  Then we’ll take another 5 minutes to get dressed…” and so forth.  Most of us have been through the 20- or 30-minute showers, the mealtimes that last an hour, the constant dawdling, because:  Unless there’s someone screaming orders at them, they don’t know how to act.

So you need to tell them ahead of time what’s coming up, then walk them through the paces, and then review afterward.  You’re teaching new life skills.  Think of them as toddlers learning to drive.  You’re going to have to explain the simplest things and keep it lighthearted.  If they’re 15 and cannot take a shower, I would be more concerned than if they are 5 and cannot hold to a schedule.

5.  Read developmental charts and then remove at least a year or so from their age.  If you believe that they are slow in terms of when they start to talk, walk, potty train, you’re probably right.  And so what?  If they need Early Intervention services, get them.  Otherwise, just keep practicing.  Talk about everything:  “I am now walking to the refrigerator.  Look at what we have to eat!  I will put carrots and onions and chicken in the soup….”   Chances are, they will not enter school as a deaf-mute, no matter how little of the language they seem to know.

Should the baby squirm on the changing table, put him on the floor on an old blanket, and use a gentle, soothing touch and voice.  Would you want somebody poking and prodding you whenever you had to go to the potty?  Make it a pleasant experience.

6.  And last of all, they may be “playing” you-!  The child has learned that you don’t have a clue, and they’re pushing all of your buttons, trying to pull a fast one.  It happens.  Tighten things up.  Stop smiling non-stop.  Give out a few consequences to an older child.  No homework done?  Then no computer or TV time this week.   If – then.

Or, learn to accommodate their needs.  Let them do a few jumping jacks ahead of time to blow off steam if you then expect them to sit still during a formal, holiday dinner for an extended period of time.  Keep outside stimulation and distractions to a minimum.  Keep the excitement low and the pace slow.  Feed the toddler from a spoon, rather than dumping food on their highchair tray.  Help the kindergartner get dressed even if you think she should be able to do it on her own.  You’re building together time.

And everyone knows:  all a child wants is you (plus a DS, Wii, i-Pad, and Lamborghini…).  Whether they get more of you through screaming and yelling, or playing and encouraging, is entirely up to you.

Their behavior may not change, but how you react to it, can.  You’re in charge.  They’ve already missed so much of their childhood, make this part as educational and enjoyable as possible.

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